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Saturday, July 13, 2019

**GRIOT** Named and Loved

Okay, so I was chatting online with some of the nieces and nephews about these Griot posts. They love hearing about their 'grandpeople' and I love sharing what I can remember. Since the cousins are all about the genealogy these days, I thought that I could talk about some of the names that run in our line.

A name is a special thing. Your surname can be a kind of placeholder in history. Your first names sometimes are meant to reflect the hopes pinned on you. In the Bible, names are very important. God would change people's name or bless their names. Today, we honor our Adamic past by giving children Bible names. I watched a documentary the other day where the presenter noted that you won't find a lot of children named after Judas Iscariot. I had never thought of that before. Personally, I have always believed that the name a child grows up with can have a serious impact on their personality and attitude, not to mention in how the rest of the world might see them. That's why we make cruel fun of people by calling them a "Becky" or "Shanequa" - and I have been cruel in that way...

In my family, nicknames were kind of a big deal. My mother had an older brother named Eber but everyone called him "Mutt". Uh, yeah. Don't ask because I don't know. There were other male relatives or close friends known as Sonny, Sonny Boy, Snookie Boy, and Bugs.

One of my mother's sisters - the one who passed before I was old enough to know her - had a beautiful name: French L. The "L" didn't stand for anything, it was just part of her birth name. I do remember that some of my folks would pronounce her name as "Frānch L.", going long on the 'a'. Apparently, she was as beautiful as her name. She must have been a riot though. I heard one story about her once being a little tipsy and admonishing a child for having their shoes on the wrong feet. The child knew better than to mention it, but the adults who were there cracked up laughing because Aunt French L's shoes were also on the wrong feet. Aunt French L's granddaughter was named after her but we mostly called her just "French" or "Frenchie".

Some of the adults I knew as a child were always referred to by their initials. To this day, I can't tell you what Aunt French L's husband's real name was. We just called him Mr. J.B.

My father always called my mother Hon but most of her other family and friends called her "Tootsie" (or, as they pronounced it, "Too-see"). This is because she was very dark complected but, as a child and teenager, had fire-red hair. Being so black-skinned with that red hair, she looked to them like a Tootsie Pop. She dyed her hair a deep brown for years until it started to grow in as a darker auburn. Here's something crazy: I'm very dark-skinned like my mother and my hair also tends towards auburn if I don't keep it dyed. In addition to that, I inherited from my father blue encircled irises. It's a harmless condition and not a totally uncommon thing although it can freak people out when the sun hits my eyes the right way. Without the sun shining into them, most people don't notice anything different about my dark brown eyes.

Back to the wonderful nicknames, one of my favorite uncles - formally named a Jr after his father, Oscar Sr - was always called Hot Shot (or 'Hah-shot'). My grandfather was known to his friends as "Bud". Oscar Sr's wife (my step-grandmother) was "Miss Ollie" to everyone, including me and the other grandchildren. By the way, young Rudy Cosby sounded just like Miss Ollie did when saying "Bud".

Granddaddy Bud's first wife, my grandmother, was named Gretchel but, for some reason, everyone called her "Aunt Jack".For the longest time, I thought her first name must have been Jacqueline or Jackie.

I had a cousin we always called "Yogi". Whenever a teacher in school used her birth name of Saundra, everyone - including Yogi - would look around to see who she was referring to. Other cousins and peers of mine had names that had to do with sweetness: Peaches, Cookie, Sugar, Candy. I use those names for characters in my stories because I loved the real people.

Now that  I think of it, my Texas family were the ones with nicknames. Not so much with my Arkansas relatives. I'm going to have to think about that a little bit. Actually, my dad's father was never called George; everyone called him Mr.Tampa and I don't know why that is since "Tampa" was no part of his actual name... Now I'm going to have to get in touch with one of the aunties! I need to know what was going on with my grandpa's name!

Remember now that my paternal grandfather - Mr. Tampa - was a Louisiana man. His relatives did have nicknames. I remember a distant female cousin (?) that was called "Big'un". I really am going to have to talk to my paternal aunties because I cannot remember some of the other nicknames for the Lousiana family...

My oldest brother was called "Chubby". When he was younger, he was, in fact, kind of chubby. My sister who I've talked so much about over the years was nicknamed "Mike" and there's a story behind that. I was Penny to my parents and siblings up until I became a teenager. One of my older brothers still calls me by that nickname on occasion and I had one uncle who called me that until he died a couple of years ago. Apparently, as an infant, I was copper-colored like a new penny. As I got older and my skin darkened, one of my older brothers started calling me "Black Knight". Yeah. Cute... In high school, I went through a phase where I used only my middle name: Michele. Some of my closest friends back then called me Bones because I was so rail-thin. Oh, the good old days of carbs without consequences!

Names are not just an identity. Your name belongs to you in a way that can help shape your identity. When you love someone - through kinship, friendship, or romance - their name on your tongue has the taste of your relationship with them. You might remember that favorite quote of mine is by a child who defined love as keeping someone's name safe in your mouth. That's so real.

Thinking back to some of the first people, Adam's and Eve's names had meaning. Even God has several names and they each have a special meaning. I personally like to think of Him as El Shaddai and Elohim. To go further, even love has different names. In reference to my faith, Agape (or Agapao) love is the one that most comforts me.

So, when you think of your loved ones and speak their names, remember what the Bible teaches about the power of the tongue. Keep those names safe in your mouth. Speak their names with love and peace and hopes for their well-being. Even when speaking of your enemies, be careful not to use their names in ways you wouldn't want anyone to use yours.


And since I am in a praising the Lord mood right now, here's some Third Day with beautiful lyrics

Thursday, July 11, 2019

**GRIOT** Devil Beating His Wife

Being the child and grandchild of Southerners, I grew up hearing a lot of odd phrases. To be honest, my relatives just talked plain funny. They had weird phrases and they painted the English language with a beautiful array of colors. My people used language in their own way, just as they put a unique spin on living life.

my mother in her late 20's-early 30's (?)
 For the longest time, I thought that only my mother said things like "You don't believe fat meat's greasy". That was for when I was being warned that my misbehaving was about to get me a whooping. Modern mothers threaten to start counting to ten, my mom had more colorful ways of warning me.

 While a lot of the phrases I heard had to do with consequences of my behavior (for instance, my butt was constantly in debt from all the checks my mouth wrote), there were some to go with everything from the weather to someone being sick.

I remember whenever it rained while the sun was shining, my mother would say that the Devil was beating his wife. I was surprised to learn just now how commonly that saying is used - and in a lot of cultures. I'm going to have to go take a closer look at that website.
one of the aunties

When my Yankee friends were "about to" do something, I was "fixing to". When Yanks were not paying you any attention, I wasn't "studdin" (or studying) you. You might be going to Heaven, but I'm going up "yonder". We also go over yonder, back yonder, or way yonder.

I'm not sure if this one is Southern or not, but where others might say someone had you wrapped around their finger, we'd say that they had your nose wide open. Another way to put that is to say that someone has your drawers (underpants) hanging on a bedpost. That, I think, had something to do with voodoo (or "hoodoo"). Another one from the voodoo files is to say that someone must have "worked a root" on you.

an uncle with a church group
Maybe right here is where I can get into my Big Mama's fear of all things pagan. Big Mama wouldn't eat food if she didn't know who cooked it. If she didn't know you, she wouldn't eat your food unless she had watched you prepare it. Why? Cause she was scared of hoodoo. For that same reason, she never left her comb or hairbrush laying around where just anybody could get to it. As Christian as she was (which is why she didn't like voodoo/hoodoo), she wasn't ashamed of her superstitions. She was one of those people who, after accidentally spilling salt, would toss some over her shoulder. Yes, my Bible-believing grandmother could be so unconsciously paranoid that it was kind of hilarious.

 These are some random photos from an old
photo album of my mother's

I don't know most of the people except that they are aunts, uncles, extended cousins, or 
very close family friends.

 I thought it would be cool for my younger nieces & nephews to see these photos. I just now started posting links to this blog of Facebook because that's where the kids hang out!

 I love the hair & clothing fashion of the '30s, '40s, and '50s.

Maybe because of their cultural ancestry, or maybe just because they were very practical and thrifty people, my relatives even dealt with health issues in their own ways. I've already talked a lot about my grandmother using asafetida poultices to deal with chest colds. I suppose there's a reason 'fetid' is in the name, but I just learned another thing: that asafetida gets its name from being funky. Wow,. At any rate, my mother never tortured me or my siblings with it but our Big Mama made up for it by giving us daily tablespoons of Castor oil. You might want to throw up every morning after your dose of oil but you were never constipated around Big Mama.

On my mother's side of the family, it was less about the countrified 'slanguage' and more about the Texan lifestyle. Where back in Hope, Arkansas where our Big Mama took us fishing with worms for bait, my West Texan grandfather let us enjoy his walnut and pecan trees. My mother would make homemade, fresh-churned ice-cream right in the front yard of Grandaddy Bud's house. Back in Arkansas, we ate bacon from pigs my grandmother's husband, Mr. Brown owned. We had fresh eggs and meat from his chickens.  In Texas, we ate peaches and apples and crab apples fresh off Granddaddy Bud's trees.

My granddaddy Bud always owned a pickup truck of some kind. My cousins and I would ride in the back while he went around to different homestead's taking care of business and sharing the goods from his trees. I remember one time when he took us on a long ride out "in the country" and showed us fields of cotton ready to be harvested. He told us to ask our mothers about their time spent picking cotton as kids. My mother told me that it was one of the ways she and her cousins made money as young girls. They would spend hours in the field, filling bag after bag with the cotton. I was absolutely horrified, but my mother had good memories of the time spent with her cousins and friends out in those fields. Even though she explained to me that there was a difference between being forced to pick cotton and being given a choice to get paid for doing it... I never could handle it. Years later, when I went through my stage of being a junior revolutionary and idolizing Newton and Seale for being bravely defiant, I would just cringe when I thought of my mother picking cotton.

Back when I was young, church and religion was a different experience depending on which grandparent I was visiting. My dad's mom (Big Mama) was deeply religious but didn't attend church on a regular basis. Nevertheless, if there was a heavy storm, she made everyone (kids and adults) get still and quiet. If there was any lightning or thunder involved, well, forget doing anything but taking a nap. You weren't going to disrespect the Lord in Big Mama's house by doing much of anything until the storm passed. To this day, during a heavy storm, I will sit my tail down and try to be still until the weather calms down. Unlike Big Mama, I don't go around unplugging everything, but I'm not trying to party down.

I didn't realize it until I was writing this post, but apparently, I carry a lot of my recent ancestors around in my behavior. Yesterday, I was cooking some sausage in my new cast iron and I flashed back on my mother standing in front of the stove, cooking something in her cast iron. I understand that people we love don't go ever completely away. They are in our memories of them. They are in the lingering memory of their touch or the sound of their laughter. They are here with us in the ways they affected us, changed us, or made us love them.


For the video pick, I think this one is just about perfect.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

**Quick Post** I've Been Missing Out

This is a quickie post just to tell you about something wonderful.

I've been buying my Cafe Du Monde chicory and coffee blend for the longest via Amazon. It's almost impossible to find it locally unless I use Hy-Vee (and they went WAY up on their delivery fees so.. bye). Last night I was surfing Amazon checking out the latest Cafe Du Monde prices and, yeah, they are still much too high. While I was surfing though, I spotted a coffee I didn't know about from a brand I do know about -Luzianne. I love Luzianne tea so that was great news. Bad news is that the shipping for the coffee almost cost more than the coffee itself.

So, I go and do a general search for Luzianne coffee and...

That's one way to get the video out of the way 

Heck yeah, hold up. I found this place online called the Cajun Grocer.

I can't even breathe right now for thinking of all the coffee, etouffee, and bread pudding with rum sauce. The only thing kind of holding me back is, I love Cafe Du Monde chicory coffee but I don't know how good Luzianne coffee actually is, and the shipping on the perishables (oh me oh my oh jambalaya) is pricey because you have to order at least 5 pounds at a time. Let me tell you something though, I am over here going over my grocery list to see what magic I can work with the budget.

If you have not seen The Cajun Grocer site, do go and check it out. If you know about it, fill me in on details. Is the fresh food worth paying to ship? Is it actually good? Keep in mind that my daddy was the son of a Lousiana man so I know a little bit about Cajun food. I haven't had any since Baby Kay's Kitchen in Arizona (where the spices nearly burned off my tastebuds), but it's good eating.

Man, I wish I had thought to order food like this when my mama was alive. She did love her crawfish and was thrilled anytime someone shipped a batch up to her in Alaska. I personally have no patience for crawfish, but I love the bread and pastries and that amazing coffee. And funny enough, the Cafe Du Monde is pricier at the Cajun Grocer while the Luzianne brand is more expensive at Amazon. Whatever. Come to think of it, I still have family somewhere down in 'Loo-zee-anna'...


Might as well finish the song

Got My Dutch and Tissue

Listen, I just want to cringe every time I remember posting about my missing package. I mean, what a bully. If I can get that cranky from missing a calorie or two, just imagine how awful I am when I am doing a prayer fast? (Which I need to do because it's been a while...)


My missing-but-not-really-missing package arrived. Yay! I'm good for toilet tissue for the next several weeks. Also, I got my water. Water is important when you are trying to lose weight. For one thing, if you drink enough water, it's easier to ignore junky snacks. It's actually even kind of hard to want any food when all that water is literally sloshing around inside you. Yeah.  But I'm getting off track.

Guess what other wonderful thing arrived?

The Dutch oven.

That thing is freaking beautiful.  I was a little worried about a couple of imperfections but they are small and I am choosing to ignore them for now. I don't think they will be a problem. If so, I will let Amazon hear about it...

Anyway, I went ahead and broke it in by fixing my one meal for the day. I had 2 brat sausages and some plain mixed veggies. That's one benefit to using cast iron - you don't have to use much oil at all. I would have taken a photo the way Instagram folk always do but I was finished eating before I thought of it  It was (as my little niece says) "da-nicious".

What I love most about this pot is that the lid is made to be used separately as a skillet.

It's the 5-quart pot

 Yass, girl, I know, right? Even though the whole thing was pre-seasoned, I re-seasoned the pot while I fixed my lunch in the lid/skillet. The food turned out nicely and I didn't even have much trouble cleaning out the veggie residue. When cooking with very little oil, some food will stick on cast iron until it becomes better seasoned with use. (Here's a tip: use some salt and a little oil to wipe out stuck on food bits.) That always worked for my mom and it's kept my other cast iron going good for years.

I have carried this skillet with me from Anchorage to Arizona to here and have had it for at least 16 or 17 years. Originally, it was my sister's "breakfast pan" that she used for cooking small meals when there wasn't the usual army of us to feed. When our mother stopped cooking on a regular basis, my sister Mike inherited all of her cast iron and she passed this small pan on to me. When Mike died, I gave all the other cast iron pieces to my nieces because I'm never going to be feeding as many people as they do.

I have some newer ones, but this one is a keeper

My not-a-diet eating plan these days is heavy on vegetables with small portions of meat for protein and variety. And make sure everything has flavor, flavor, flavor. The sausages and simple veggies were fine to test the new skillet, but I'm ready to do a larger meal with a lot of sweet onions, green onions, bell peppers, and garlic. I adore stinky veggies. Caramelized onions and fresh-roasted garlic are my favorites. Bell peppers are so expensive here - in the freaking food belt of the nation - that when I get ready to buy them, I have to make some serious life decisions and rearrange my budget. And don't even think about finding any fish that's not farmed unless you have some serious cash to spend. But that's okay because, if I have enough onion and garlic, I don't care if I have anything else to go with a meal of mixed vegetables. But I was told by one of my nurses to make sure I am getting enough protein so I'm supposed to always have a least a little portion of meat... So I'm going to be eating a lot of chicken and sausages. Hopefully, if I work my recipes right, I won't have to cook but once every three or four days.

The oven wasn't the only thing I was happy about. That Amazon Presto brand tissue is the business! I ordered it without high expectations. I just hoped that, for the price, it would be as good as Charmin. Listen. That tissue beats the heck out of every other "soft" and plush tissue I've used. And the rolls are humongous. I ordered a pack each of the "ultra strong" and "ultra soft" versions of the Presto tissue. I'm not as crazy about the "strong" version (though it's strong enough) because I prefer the soft version. And the soft version is actually strong enough. At least, it doesn't shred and come apart. You could clean up small spills with this tissue. I won't call out the last brand I used (because it's a decent brand of tissue), but look at the difference:

And the spool on the smaller roll takes up more space...

Right???? That gigantic thing barely fit on my tissue roller. The other brand was a little cheaper than the Presto but it was a good tissue (good enough that I have bought it a few times), but for the size of the Presto roll (and the softness), there was no competition. I have found my new favorite tissue. Of course, I have to use up all of the "strong" version before I buy any more of the "soft" stuff. Now that I have tried the tissue, I might have to check out some more items from the Presto brand.

So, yeah, I am in a much better mood tonight. I have eaten a healthy meal, drank gallons (or at least quarts) of water, and I have the Dutch oven I always wanted. By the way, you do know that there are reasons people cook in cast iron, right? The main reason my mother and grandmothers did was that cast iron distributes heat better than most pans. Also - and this was something my mother taught me - anemics can benefit from the added iron that leeches into food cooked in cast iron. Now, once you get a cast iron pot or pan well-seasoned, it's perfect because food doesn't stick and there are none of the chemicals that other "non-stick" cookware use.

It took me about a year to get one of my newer cast iron skillets fully and totally seasoned. And I mean, seasoned to the point of the pan's surface becoming almost completely smooth and non-stick. If I had cooked in it more than once or twice a month, it would have gotten there so much sooner.

Now, frying isn't the only thing you can do in a cast iron pan - which is why I wanted this deep Dutch oven. My mom and grandma cooked almost everything in cast iron - soups, stews, chili, roasts, baked meat, and pies and cobblers even. I'm not sure they ever owned many other types of pans. I fix cornbread in my large skillet all the time, and Indian fry bread too. You can make delicious (and quick) bread in it. Like I can't say enough, cast iron holds heat really well and keeps a more even temperature inside than most pans of other materials. If you get a pan with a good-sealing lid, even better. The only possible downside to cast iron is that it's so heavy. I usually just keep the pieces I use most out on an empty burner or in the oven. You don't want to drop one of those bad boys on a toe or on your flooring...

If you go online to look, it might be hard to find a lot of recipes for cooking in a cast iron Dutch oven - on the stove or in the oven. Just about anything you cook in any other skillet or pan, you can cook in cast iron, but you just might not find many recipes online. Lots of people use cast iron for camp-cooking - again, I think because it's strong and durable and holds heat so well... However, I found this easy bread recipe from Jenny freaking Jones - remember, she had that talk show? Now she is on YouTube with some really good recipes. I check out her videos all the time and she has this one for a No-Knead Bread. You may never want to hassle with making any other kind of bread after this. I tried this recipe using a neighbor's deep-welled enameled pan. It takes time to bake it, of course, but the prep is so fast. I am not a huge fan of enameled cast iron, by the way. It's pretty and easier to clean (at first) but it can be a little delicate. I don't think I get the same flavor from food cooked in the enamel kind.

By the way, if you are interested in Jenny Jones's recipes (and you should be because she certainly can cook), here's her YouTube channel and her website. Now I have to go and drink another bottle of water before I slosh off to bed.


Friday, July 05, 2019

Cranky Is As Cranky Does (UPDATE)

I first published this post on 7/5. Today 7/9, the first package of items arrived.
 Amazon told me to just keep the package. So now I have plenty of tissue. Pah-lenty.

You know, I should know better than to interact with people when I am deprived of calories. I'm not the most social person when I'm in a great mood, but I dang sure don't need to be set loose on the world when I'm cranky. Here's what happened today:

I had put in my regular order for some household items the other day. And which service did I use? Amazon. Prime. Fast shipping, baby.

For those who may not know, you can sign up for text alerts regarding your deliveries. And of course, I signed up way back when. Keeps me from missing parcels. If I'm not home, I can have a neighbor hold them for me. Usually, I am at home. So when the text pops up that my items have been delivered, I can go to the door and grab them.Easy peazy and a lazy shopper's boon.

Today, I got the text alert that my order of items was delivered but, when I check, there's nothing outside my door. Huh. I go back and check online to see what's up. Maybe the text was wrong. Nope. My order was showing as delivered and accepted. Accepted by somebody named Mike M___.

I have no idea who this Mike dude is. I'm bad with names so I can't tell right off if he's a neighbor in the building or somewhere else on the block. The building manager hands out a list every now and then, updating with the names of the tenants. I, of course, always lose that list. And by "lose" I mean I throw it out. I can't deal with clutter and I have enough from my writing projects.

So, who in the heck is this Mike? I have no idea but I do know who to ask. If he lives anywhere within a 3-block radius of this building, there's one neighbor who will know something about him. She keeps up with that kind of thing. I go ask and, sure enough, she knows for sure that there is a Mike in the building but she doesn't remember his last name. She doesn't remember exactly which second-floor apartment is his either but she does know there's a little statue of a duck outside the door. Listen, if I ever turn up missing, somebody contact this woman. She will have some kind of intel for sure.

Let me mention that at this point, I'm irritated. Normally, things like this don't faze me. I'm generally a very easy going gal. But not today. Today I am in a post-birthday funk. The voices in my head keep reminding me that I'm older and that the older I get, the harder it is to stay in shape. Those voices had the nerve to tell me that I should lose some weight. I mean... The. Freaking. Nerve. Right?

Yes, I have let the prednisone take over my willpower. And, yes, I need to be a little more disciplined. Also, since apparently prednisone is going to always be some part of my life, I need to stop using it as an excuse and just deal with the extra fat on my ass. But I really don't appreciate my personal Jiminy harping at me until I started covering all the mirrors in my home.

Yes, I covered the one full-length mirror that hangs on the back of my bedroom door. It was getting to be a pain to remember not to look whenever I passed in front of it.

Anyway. I've been severely restricting my caloric intake. This is just to jumpstart things. In a couple of weeks, I will test the waters of a couple hundred more calories but, for now, I am in a low-carb mode and not my usual sunshiney self. Listen, when I measured out the sweetened creamer for my coffee this morning, I actually licked the residue from the spoon. Yeah, that's where I am in my life...Anyway, this leads me back to the part of the story where I practically stomped into the elevator, then down the second-floor hall - hopefully burning some calories. I was on a mission to find a duck statuette. I was going to confront this Mike dude. because I wanted to know where he got off with stealing my delivery. Matter of fact, I was planning to inform him that his theft had caused me some serious emotional suffering. Also, who the heck would steal someone's order of toilet paper and bottled water? Tell me that.

When I spotted the duck, I didn't immediately knock on Mike's door. I kind of put my ear to it for a moment. I wanted to know if Mr. Mike was possibly talking to someone about his theft. Maybe he was even sharing my toilet paper and water, handing out rolls and bottles to his... partners in crime???

I knocked at the door and... nothing. I waited for at least a count of 100, then knocked harder. Finally, I hear someone telling me to "hang on, just a minute". And that's when I realized I might have been just a little bit out of control. I wished I had realized that about 5 minutes earlier because, boy, did I feel like an ass when that door opened.

Mike is an old guy - maybe in his early 80's? - and he's on a walker. Yeah. And he's got the kindest eyes and this really sweet smile. Right then, I could hear my mom turning over in her grave. Shame on me. Just shame.

Of course, Mike didn't have my package. And that made me feel bad enough but when he offered to help me look for it, I died a little inside... I felt like such a thug.

I thanked Mr. Mike and apologized for bothering him. And then I slunk all the way back to my apartment.

I was home for maybe three minutes before I got a real bright idea (you know, the one I should have had first) and called up Amazon. Because someone had accepted my delivery, right?

Guess what? Turns out that there had been some kind of snafu with the delivery service (I won't name names but I will share initials, U.P.S.) For some reason, my delivery never made it to my building. It got to town and then was sent back to the last station where - get this - it was accepted by some worker named Mike M___.

The Amazon rep couldn't even figure out the why of the situation and was as baffled as I was that the packaged had been marked "Delivered" instead of "Returned". Whatever. She was awesome. In addition to refunding the money back to my original payment source, she gave me a complimentary gift card to put towards my next purchase.

Sunshiney, sensible and well-fed me would have used that credit toward that re-purchase of goods. Cranky me ordered a freaking dutch oven...In my defense, I've been wanting one forever. I'm going to need something in which to cook all that carb-free and low-fat protein I'll be eating for a long while to come.

Listen, I know that I handled everything in my life wrong today. That's why I'm going to up my calorie limit a bit asap. Happy me is already misunderstood but cranky me... I'll get kicked right off the planet. Regardless, I don't want to be a meanie. All I was trying to do was shut up those voices in my head

First thing tomorrow, I'm starting my day with some protein. I might have to torture myself long enough to bake some bread or cookies to take up to Mr. Mike, but I know I need more food before I face anyone.


A little D'Angelo always calms me down.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

People Are Fascinating

I have a thing about watching people and trying to spot their personality sparks. Sometimes, it's just the way someone's mouth looks when they smile or the way they look when they are listening to another person. Way back when I was in junior high school (you know, all those centuries ago), I rode the bus with a girl who had the tiniest dimple on one side of her mouth. Fascinating. And then there was the girl I knew way back in, I don't know, maybe sixth grade who was a really good soccer player. She probably went on to become a pro. I remember that she always stretched her neck from side to side just before she went onto the field to play. She looked so serious and so determined, like a soldier about to go into battle. Myself, I didn't play sports. Still don't.  I was very girly and prissy back then. Still am, mostly. But I was always mesmerized by that one girl. I think her name might have been Tamara.

As old as I am now, I am still fascinated by people. Whenever I see a woman do something that sort of defines her personality - maybe it's the way she moves or the way she laughs - I wonder if there is a thing I do that defines my personality. Lord Jesus, please don't let it be my maniacal laugh...

As far as the opposite sex, there is this thing that some men do that I find so attractive. It's going to sound weird but here goes. You know how when a man is wearing a tie and just before he sits at a table or desk, he smooths his tie and holds it for a moment? That thing, it just makes me shiver. Something about the hands. It's so subtly masculine. I'm the same way about when a man does that hand-to-heart apology motion. Swoon factor, 10. I imagine that men feel the same way about us females crossing our legs or playing with our hair.

One of the older ladies in this building has this thing she does (unconsciously I'm sure) where she touches her husband's wrist when they are sitting and talking. She just lays her fingers on his wrist. It's so sweet and telling. The two of them have to be around 75 or 80 but whenever I see her do that, I can picture them as newlyweds, her so in love that she can't resist touching him. I think that it's actually calming to her these days but, still, it's so beautiful. They really aren't otherwise very publicly affectionate. He's hard of hearing and always looks slightly annoyed at everything.

One of my brothers does this thing where he drums the fingers of one hand against his mouth when he's concentrating. Or scheming. Another of his "sparks" is to throw you a sly sideways look whenever he thinks someone else in the room is talking crap. It's a look that says, "You hearing this?"

Whenever my mother was worried or anxious, she would hum. When she had something heavy on her mind and was lost in thought, she would mutter "huh" as if to say "Oh well." Mostly though, she hummed. If my father was worried, he chewed at the corner of his bottom lip - which is not uncommon. His other quirk drove all of us crazy. Happy, sad, or whatever, if he was sitting, he would prop one leg over the other and shake his foot. It was the most annoying thing. Sitting next to him felt like sharing space with some kind of engine. My younger brother has the same habit.

I have one aunt (who's actually very close to my age) who has a really sweet smile, but it's a closed-mouth smile. You never see her teeth. Even when she's not smiling, she always looks like she's about to smile anyway. Some people have that kind of pleasant expression. Not me. I have resting confused bitch face. The complete opposite of my auntie's resting angelic face.

Talking about my aunt just made me remember a late uncle. He was a sweet man and most of the time, he was jovial and easygoing. He had deep dimples and beautiful hair - shiny and wavy. And he wore an earring back in the early and mid 70's when I didn't see a lot of men wearing that solo earring. He was an alcoholic. He loved his wife and kids and he held down a steady job at the same place for as long as I knew him. For a long time, I thought he was the coolest and happiest guy. I think he was for most of his life, but then, when I was around fourteen or fifteen, I remember being able to see some sadness in his eyes. Even when he was smiling and engaging with the family, that little shade of self-disappointment and weariness was there. He died maybe a year after I first started noticing that he wasn't always happy. I think he knew that his drinking was killing him and he still didn't know how to stop. When I think of him now, I think of his dimples and that smile - the one before the sadness.

We all have our quirks and "sparks" and soul scars that make us unique. I honestly believe that it's our scars that make us beautiful. You know, the way that a little salt makes chocolate taste sweeter? Maybe because our scars make us more human and real.


People are just so very fascinating, aren't they? And it's the small things we do that make us memorable and individual. It's all these small things that will be forgotten years after we are gone. People will maybe know our names because of what we leave behind, but our little sparks will be forgotten.

I'm not sure what all of this means. I guess I'm just so aware of how important part of our existence is while part of it means nothing much long after we are gone. The whole of us may be remembered while the small and beautiful parts of us are forgotten too soon.

I will have to think about all of this some more and if it starts to make sense to me, I'll let you know.

Oh, and by the way, happy Fourth of July.


Monday, July 01, 2019

I've Leveled Up

I once saw a cute meme that said we should start thinking of our ages as game levels. The higher up we level, the more badass we seem. I dig it.

Yesterday, I celebrated surviving another year of existence and I'm not ashamed to say that this birthday made me a little sad. I had made a wish a while back and was holding my breath, waiting for it to miraculously come true. It didn't. That's what I get for being a dreamer of impossible dreams and such a hopeless romantic. Other than that, I had a fabulous day, thank you very much. I ate too many cupcakes, laughed a lot, and spent time with people I love.

But another year is gone. Wow.

Mission accomplished
Actually, aging is not a big thing for me. I can age or I can not age. I choose life.

I think that it's not aging that bothers people. I think the problem is the importance we put on aging. And that we are trained to set our life clocks and dreams to specific ages.

Aging is not just physiological. It's always been my opinion that there are different ages we reach in our own time, regardless of our biological calendars. There's the Learning Age -  which lasts a lifetime unless you are determined for it not to. The Experience Age lasts several years until you've done most of what you ever will for the first time - first job, first really good friendship, first love (and maybe) first heartache, first mourning a loved one, first regret, and so on. There are people still in their 20's going through things I never will. Life's funny like that. I feel for kids who have had to experience the most painful stuff before they get to the good stuff.

I'm fortunate that I learned a lot of life lessons when I could best handle them. I'm especially lucky that I still enjoy learning and discovering. That will always be my favorite life "level".

The Romantic Age is the tough one for some of us. It can come early in life or late. It just might come around again and again. For some people, their romantic age is planned out and works out with the first person they love. For some, it comes as a surprise. At my age, that's what will have to happen and it would be so welcome and amazing.

I've had 2 chances at romance. Let's call them Ghosts of Romances Past. I mourn both of them because I didn't make them what they could have been. I'm okay with that - finally - because I think I have entered my Comfort Age. In this age of my life (and especially since my wish didn't come true) I'm not expecting much, I just enjoy what I have - or the memories of what I've had. Some people don't even have memories of good things.

Yes. This.
So where does my sadness come from? It comes from an echo of my past, not my "now" and it's not a deep or heavy sadness. It's a reminder that I could have been in this Comfort Age all along. This age is one of acceptance. I'm content - for the most part - and thankful. Nothing has to be forced anymore. I live my best, love my best, and hope for the best. That's all. It's like my spin on the Serenity Prayer.

By the way, despite my current calm, don't think I didn't have a rough moment or two. I spent most of last night bawling like a jilted bride. Then I realized that I probably need to start watching out for wrinkles! (Just kidding. You all know I had to throw a joke in somewhere.) But listen. I did cry for a while, just for a short while. What I came to realize is that I'm blessed to still be here in this life of mine. As raggedy and worn out as it is, it's mine and I cherish it.

And if my "wish" is still out there somewhere, I hope it finds me one day.


P.S.: The other day, I was looking over some old photographs of family and friends - and a lot of people I have no idea about...  I've had a lot of happiness in my life. Sometimes, I'm so busy missing what I don't have that I forget that. And because this is what I feel like inside, I'm choosing this song for the post:

"I wanna be free to know
The things I do are right
I wanna be free"

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Deep Roots

Does anyone remember Alex Haley's Roots? I read the book when I was a teenager. When the movie came out, my family was right there in front of the television set from beginning to end. It was a very emotional thing for us. Years later, I tried to trace my ancestry and only got a few generations back before I hit a slavery wall. Once I ran out of census records, I ran right into slave records that were murky and random. I got further than I expected because I had some older relatives who had oral genealogies to share.

I have carried around with me the notes and "trees" I started. Every now and then I pull them out just to refresh my fading memory. A few months ago, a young nephew asked me to send what I had collected. That's when I realized that I have all that information still packed away somewhere from my last move. Frustrating. This is part of why I started doing the "Griot" posts (which I have slacked on lately... But here's one and the other that I did.)

Today, I spent a little time online halfheartedly looking at different ancestry sites. In the process (and this is maybe because I have been doing Bible study with an Orthodox Jewish Bible) I wondered just how far back anyone has managed to trace their roots. Mormons are wonderful about keeping genealogical records, but it was the Jewish people I was curious about.

Like most people who have read the Bible all the way through, every time I do it, I speed-read through the genealogies. I used to think of them as the "dratted begatteds" (only because they seem tedious to read through). Today, though, I suddenly found it all very interesting.

Did you know that there are people who have traced their families all the way back to King David? That's just insanely amazing to me. I worked over a year during my spare time just to get back to my maternal grandmother's father!


She died just months after I was born so all I have for memories is that one photo. Beautiful woman with a shadowed past. Something about her parents not being happy with her choice of a spouse. Thanks to the disagreement, she never talked about the parents to her own children. My mother never met her grandparents and I now have very little information about them. Yeah.

Anyway, when I found out about those people tracing their bloodline back as far as King David I was stunned. Then I read this about people who can (kinda, sorta) trace their line all the way back to Adam. Yes, that Adam. Garden-of-Eden Adam. Eve's husband. 

Mind. Completely. Blown.

By the way, there is a possibility that proving Davidic roots may entitle people to ownership of some seriously prime real estate. Seriously prime.

As for me and my house (see what I did there?) all I ever wanted was trace my roots back to before they got planted in Louisiana, Texas, and
Arkansas. Even for the relatives I did manage to trace, there are gaps from when they moved around during a census year. I think I might have to figure out a way to get an membership back into my budget. Back in the day, the price was reasonable, but those people have lost their minds with the high prices now. Yikes. To be honest, Ancestry only made things slightly easier for me. So maybe I will just have to do some digging on my own. I better get to it.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Can't See For Looking

Okay, folks, I'm going to "go religious" on you but, hang with me because there's something in here that even atheists might like.

How do you picture Jesus? I'm sure people of all faiths (or none) would be interested in knowing what he actually looked like. I have started reading other versions of the Bible in my personal studies. This weekend, I read passages from some of the Messianic Bible versions.

Years ago, my mother regularly watched a show called Zola Levitt Presents. Every now and then, I would sit and watch with her. That was the first time I ever thought seriously about the fact that Jesus was Jewish. As silly as it sounds, up until then (and I had to be at least 22 or 23) in my mind's eye, Jesus looked like this:

That's not Jesus.
That's Robert Powell

The actor Robert Powell isn't a savior but he played one in Jesus of Nazareth. Such a beautifully done movie with an amazing cast. Before that movie came along, I had imagined Jesus looking like the classic painting that was hung somewhere in the homes of most black families. You might remember the ensemble of paintings your grandma gave pride of wall space to - Jesus, MLK, and JFK.

 However, my mind's eye (and the movie and paintings and so many church fans) got it wrong.  Jesus was a Jewish man so he most likely did not have those brilliantly blue eyes and I'm pretty sure he didn't have the whole rock star look. Looking back on that movie now all I can think is that the late Michael Hutchence would've wished to be that fine. I'm not being flip. Just look at that photo again.

According to the Bible “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 53:2 NIV) It's been opined that based on his racial makeup and manual labor occupation as a carpenter, he was probably of a darker complexion and had some sun damage to his skin. Along with the Bible identifying him as being not very handsome (whatever that means), he may have looked more like this:

Source: Popular Mechanics

That's more plausible, right?  The article at Poplar Mechanics makes a lot of good points. Our minds are so polluted with stereotypes about people that we want to think good people must be physically attractive. Just think of that so-called black doll/white doll syndrome - as true or untrue as that might be. Or the fact that attractiveness can play a huge role in our lives.

Listen, I am not pointing fingers at anyone else's ignorance here but my own. Not only did I have the wrong idea about Jesus's appearance, but I just about had heart failure when I heard the Lord's Prayer spoken in the languages Jesus used.

Uh, why doesn't he sound British!?!?!? I'm just kidding. Some filmmakers aren't kidding.

Now, it had at some point in my much younger life occurred to me that we Westerners had the wrong impressions of Jesus. And some people were just completely stupid on the subject. I can remember some kind of anti-semitic rally or demonstration taking place near wherever my family was living back in the mid-'70s. My mother and her friends stood in support of the Jewish people. What was so silly is that there were only about 6 Jewish people in that community. Maybe the racist idiots just wanted something to rally about. Who knows? But I remember my mother shaking her head in disgust at the people carrying crosses while they chanted about "dirty Jews". Much like the Klan and other so-called 'Christians' who hate just to hate or judge in hate, these people forgot, I guess, that their Savior was Jewish. (And, by the way, the saying is not "Judge not" with a period at the end. It is "Judge not lest you be judged."  People always forget that last part. So, you can judge others if you're free of sin. Anybody? Go ahead. I'll wait. I'll just be over here taking this plank out of my eye.)

My whole point is, I have never fully appreciated everything about the Lord I serve. Like most people (I'm assuming), I tend to think only in flavors I know of. Now that  I have it in the forefront of my mind that Jesus talked, walked, ate, prayed, and lived Jewish, I get it. I can see a little deeper into my study of what he said and did while on Earth.

Just like I did in seeing Jesus in my shallow and one-dimensional way, I do the same thing in other areas of my life. I have got to work on that. I need to start viewing people as they are and not how I want or imagine them to be. Same goes for life and situations in general.

One of the sayings I remember from my childhood in Texas was "Can't see for looking." It was your response when you saw something shocking and someone asked if you "saw that". I apply it to my life in other ways. Sometimes, when I make an immediate judgment about a person or situation based only on shallow information, I later realize I missed the bigger picture. Can't see for looking and sometimes, can't hear for listening.

I'm not the only one with this weakness. This is the reason that a lot of us have shallow and ever-changing standards of beauty. It's why we assume intelligence based on slick looks or words. It's why we so often don't see the full worth of people and life. We're too busy looking at the cover to read the book. Because that takes time, doesn't it?

At any rate, I'm really enjoying my Bible studies now more than ever. By the way, for those of you who may not own a Bible - or a lot of Bible study resources - you might want to check out eSword or My Sword  Both have a variety of Bible versions, concordances, commentaries, and other help. Both are free (with expanded options for purchase). I've been using eSword and I'm amazed at the number of tools available in both the app and pc versions.  Usually, when studying my Bible, I have to sit by my computer with 20 browser tabs open to all the different resources. A single app or program is more productive. Actually, the modules for the two 'sword' products are somewhat interchangeable and updates are being made all the time. Check out both no matter which operating system you use. I'm currently using eSword on both my Windows pc and Android phone. Here are the links:

By the way, there are huge selections of language options in both programs. There's a slight learning curve but, hey, I managed to figure it all out so...

That's it for now. I hope that at least some of this information is useful to you guys out there. Even if you're not "religious", information is always good to have.


Sharing a few of the songs I've been listening to this evening

Amazing, amazing, amazing grace

I have loved this song for years

Oh, blessed Prince of peace

"Stop fighting a fight that's already been won."

Saturday, June 22, 2019

All Up In My Head

I've run through most of my stashed posts so I figured it was time to slide back into real-time mode. It's been a minute since I've felt clear enough (well, mostly) to write about anything real. For the past couple of weeks, I've been living all up in my own head. 

I just realized that I used "I" 4 times up there. Yeah, so that's the mood I am in lately so if you are still reading, you're going to have to deal with it. Also, I might ramble in this post and slide all over the place. It's that kind of day.

Some more warnings: this is going to get weird, it's going to get religious, and it's going to get sad. You might want to leave now.


The world around me is not as bright and beautiful as I wish. People, politics, the whole tide of society - it just feels very weird right now. We've got a vigilante president who I hate to discuss because the mention of his name either makes people way too defensive or way too angry.

America should just be such a much better place. Those of us here, in the better and more blessed part of society, should be working harder to lift up those who are not as blessed. But we're not. We are like pigs gorging ourselves with food and sex and luxuries while the starving and oppressed watch and wait for us to notice that they are there. And we are still having to spend too much time talking about race and equality and humane treatment of others, especially the children. I can't even think too hard about the way we are treating (or mistreating) the babies right now because it makes me dizzy with grief.

Yeah, folks, this is what I mean about being in my head right now. It's like wandering around in some kind of enchanted land of What the Hell?

Things don't change enough
When I was laid up last week for my regular session of being laid the hell up, I tried watching some of the TV shows I've heard so much about. I watched a few episodes of "The Musketeers", then spent way too much time on "Spartacus". Way too much. Have you seen this show? I don't know what fascinated me more - the soft-core porn or the way-too-graphic violence. In one of the fight scenes, a guy lost an eyeball. An EYEBALL, people. It popped right out in extreme detail. I was making sure to look away or fast-forward through most of the gorier scenes but was too late to miss that one. What I don't understand is, why so much attention to the gore? It was as if, since they couldn't get more graphic with the sex - which got pretty graphic - they went all out on the blood and guts. Just nasty. Extremely nasty.

I learned nothing from that bout of TV intoxication but I was reminded that we keep living in a cycle of sex, power, and suffering. Society always consists of Insiders and Outsiders, Elite and Underdog, First World and Third World, 'Master' and 'Slave'.

What's that saying about those not learning history being doomed to repeat it? Apparently, we never learn - or we just ignore the lessons. Look around at the repeat of madness we live in right now. The Bible says:
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
The critical commentary (Holden) on that verse just highlights the misery we create for ourselves:
Rather, "no new thing at all"; as in Numbers 11:6 . This is not meant in a general sense; but there is no new source of happiness (the subject in question) which can be devised; the same round of petty pleasures, cares, business, study, wars, &c., being repeated over and over again [HOLDEN].
How depressing is that?

Anyway, (speaking of depressing) I have a birthday looming and zooming toward me like a bullet train!  I was thinking that if making birthday wishes worked, I have a list. I wouldn't wish for world peace and all the usual jazz; I'd wish that we could learn from history. I'd wish that we all wanted something better for everyone. I'd wish that we could, just for a day, look around and really see where we are going wrong. But would that be best?

One of my sisters-in-law said something interesting not long ago. We were talking about all the misery and struggle so many people live in. We groused about the state of turmoil in politics and religion and so on and so forth. I said something about wishing it could all just be better. My SIL said that she didn't. That stopped me cold until she explained.

To paraphrase my SIL, this world isn't going to get better. For those of us who believe the Bible (and we both do), we are taught that things get progressively worse. Ultimately, there will be an end game battle. And since, as Christians, we know the outcome, we should be looking forward to it.

That makes sense to me because we are too far removed from Eden to remember what Paradise was like. I don't want to get used to the world we now live in. I want to get acquainted with the better life we've been promised.

Sorry. I didn't mean to go dark so fast there. That's what happens when I'm blogging and let my coffee cup get empty! Time for a refill.

Okay, I'm back and re-caffed.

All the travels through my mind haven't been so dreary. Once I stopped getting drunk on "Spartacus" and "The Musketeers" I went in a more uplifting direction.  As a matter of fact, I went in a direction I usually avoid: toward math. Ugh. Yeah.

We all used so much math back when I worked in import brokerage that it amazes former co-workers that I now can't even deal with the basics. Just looking at too many numbers at once makes my brain hurt. Thanks, sarc. But, I made it through the first few minutes of this video to get to the beautiful part about fractals.

Dr. Lisle is one of my favorite "teachers"  along with Dr. Ross - though the two Christian physicists don't always agree in their viewpoints. I don't always agree with these guys, but I am grateful for their intelligence and ability to share it with laymen. Although I provided links to the book pages of Lisle and Ross, that wasn't to plug their work. I just like linking to scientists who happen to share my faith. What I do want to plug is the Bible Tools page (also the Tecarta Bible app) that I use all the time.

And since I am still on the topic of my faith, I have to add this short video that deals with the question of where God came from. Ken Ham is not a favorite personality of mine for a few reasons, but his answer here lifts my heart every time I hear it. And, believe it or not, we Christians sometimes need to be reminded. (I need to be reminded of lots of things. Which is why I deeply regret writing this post.) I read something that clarified the negative impact of using bad language - even in humor. I am working on that area of my life.

Well. now wasn't this a fun post? I did warn you.

Anyway. I have detoxed from the blood and gore of TV shows and feel that I'm back on solid mental footing. I have spent enough time in my head for now. This week I am deep-cleaning the apartment. That's not because I enjoy deep-cleaning. What happened is I have misplaced my Echo pen and once I started looking for it, I dumped drawers and emptied closets that I have to now clean up. What better reason to really clean?

Now I have to get back to my cleaning because I need to get out of my head for a while. Here's hoping everyone has a good upcoming week. (And, yep, I probably will have to come back and do some editing...)


I have always loved this song for so many reasons. RIP Donny.
I love the version done by H.E.R. but it's part of a longer video that I.may have already posted.
Let me tell you, baby girl sang the hell out of this song. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lazy Shopper's Rejoice

A lot of you know that I am the world's laziest shopper. So far, I depend primarily on Amazon and Walmart for delivery of most goods. Now it looks like those guys are going to have a little more competition.

Without jabbering you to death, I'll just get right to the details. Here are some of the articles I've been seeing about shopper options:

  • "Here's how Walmart is taking on Instacart, Target, and Amazon" (Like with most long-distance deliveries, I can get everything but perishables from Walmart. I can order and pay for some grocery items to be picked up at a local store. That option is somewhat limited and, obviously defeats the "home delivery" purpose.)
  • Here's a more concise breakdown of the Walmart delivery service. This is still in a test market phase, I guess.
  • The Penny Hoarder review, "Shipt Grocery Delivery Service: Is It Worth the Added Cash for Convenience?" lays out some pros and cons of the Target-acquired delivery service. (In my opinion, you have to factor in things personal to your situation. I don't mind the hassle of arranging my budget and splitting my shopping between the different merchants. It's a hassle and there are costs but I also don't pay for a car, insurance, gas, and upkeep. As for my budget, I think that shopping this way keeps me within bounds. It's easier not to impulse shop or go over budget because I am seeing totals and fees before I actually pay. Finally, when I am shopping from home, I can run in and double-check my pantry before I order too much or too little of something.
  • It looks like Kroger is testing a delivery service. This is good news for some shoppers. I don't think there is a Kroger's near where I live.
A couple of things that I'm surprised more people don't know is that in metro areas (Hi, Houston, where my best friend lives) you can get same-day delivery of groceries via Amazon Fresh. I was just stunned that my friend didn't know about this. We both shop Amazon so much that we should get alimony if we ever break up with Prime. She lives in one of the WORST places to drive so Fresh should be her new boyfriend.

Of course, as soon as I sign into Fresh, I get notified with a quickness that it's not available in my rinky-dink town. However, if I wanted to order groceries for my elderly aunt, I could do so just by changing the delivery address. In this day of aging relatives and such, that's a nice feature for some of us.

Just choose from your address book or add a new one

I love how they don't deliver to my small town address, but I can choose to ship "outside the US". Really, Amazon? You so trifling...

If the linked articles are on your "read later" list, just know that, along with Amazon, Target and Walmart have or are testing out same-day delivery services. Instacart is another way to get deliveries from local stores. For me, that means Hyvee and Petsmart. Yay.

I hope this was helpful. Now I have to go and read some of those long articles for myself.


P.S.: I picked 2 videos this time. 

 I love this one because the editing (?) is sheer genius. The old footage is a history lesson of sorts. (And, by the way, we don't need to make America "great again". She wasn't always that great for everybody but we were moving towards better until... well, never mind.)

This one is a favorite because I love the original Glenn Miller recording. Cool how somebody "funked" it up to another level. Enjoy.